Retire at Age 66, or Wait?

Dear Dr. Don,Should I retire now at my full retirement age of 66 or wait a year? How long would it take me to make up the lost year of Social Security benefits if I wait?-- Dwaine Denouement

Dear Dwaine,By waiting 12 months past your full retirement age to start receiving Social Security benefits, your retirement benefit will be 108% your primary insurance amount. Ignoring any adjustments for inflation, it will take 12½ years to recoup the lost year of retirement benefits, or by about age 79½.

Does that sound like a bad trade? Maybe not. The higher benefit, indexed to inflation, can shorten the break-even point. If you're married, it can also mean a higher survivor's benefit for your spouse should you die first.

If you're married, you can apply for retirement benefits at full retirement age and then request to have payments suspended. That way, your spouse can receive a spouse's benefit and you will continue to earn delayed retirement credits until you decide to resume benefits, or up until age 70. There's no economic benefit to waiting to resume benefits past when you turn 70.

The Social Security Administration's Retirement Planner "When to start your benefits," can help you sort through the issues. If you need more help to decide, work with a financial planner or call your local Social Security office.